The Commerce Journal

December 29, 2012

Focusing the gun control debate: our illusion of control

BY Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Newspapers from coast to coast have already spent a lot of ink reporting, discussing, examining and analyzing the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut earlier this month.

I doubt I can add much more of value to the discussion, but I think that, perhaps, looking at the way people have reacted to the tragedy can give us a useful perspective.

After the initial feelings of sorrow and horror died down, people quickly began to pick sides on the gun control debate, as always happens after mass shootings like this. People overreacted, others perhaps did not take the situation seriously enough.

Regardless, I am not very interested in the various sides of the debate right now. People on both sides are concerned about control: the government tightening their control over what kind of guns people can buy, schools increasing their control over school safety, or communities controlling access to schools through the placement of armed security guards or police officers on every campus.

Both sides have merit. Both raise interesting points that need to be discussed publicly as we wrestle with this issue as a nation.

But, the scary thing is, as much as we want to control what happens to us and our families, we have very little power to do so.

Random acts of violence are random, and while we can certainly limit their frequency and effectiveness, we cannot predict when they are going to happen.

We can eat healthy food and exercise every day; we can wear seat belts in the car and on airplanes; we can save money from every paycheck and make low-risk investments.

But problems still come. We can’t predict when illness or disease will affect our lives, or a malfunctioning machine will threaten our health, or the bottom will fall out of the national or global economy.

There are actions we perform every day to give ourselves an illusion of control and safety. These are just illusions, though.

At this point, you may be getting a little weary of the doom and gloom that I have been preaching, but stay with me.

I am certainly not saying we should live recklessly and dangerously, throwing caution to the wind.

But I do think it is important to acknowledge that we simply cannot control much of what happens to us and those we love, both good and bad.

So that anxiety of the unknown that plagues our lives is unnecessary. I know that I often worry about things that are outside the reach of my influence. This simply adds stress and a sense of helplessness.

Instead, I believe we should focus on the decisions we make that impact the world we live in. Decisions like what we eat, what we do in our free time, who we spend our time with and what we spend our money on.

As for our general lack of control, I simply make sure to tell my friends and family that I love them whenever we part ways, because if it is the last thing I ever say to them, I want to say something meaningful.